The 107th Legislature, first session, adjourned sine die May 27.
Lincoln Sen. Mike Hilgers, Speaker of the Legislature, thanked senators and staff for their hard work, acknowledging the efforts of many to complete an uninterrupted and “tremendously difficult” session during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“The things we put in place — all-day committee hearings, the submitted written testimony, everything else that made life so difficult for so many — were really the keys to allow us to get our work done,” he said.
Among the challenges faced by lawmakers this year, Hilgers said, were passing the state’s two-year budget and approving significant tax reform. Hilgers credited the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee for passing what he called one of the best budgets in years, which funded many senators’ priorities while holding annual spending growth below 3 percent.
Hilgers also praised lawmakers, and members of the Revenue Committee specifically, for their work in funding new property tax relief and cutting taxes on military retirement, Social Security income, business inputs and residential water service.
“I think it’s the most consequential series of tax cut bills that this Legislature has passed, maybe in decades,” he said. “All of these things make Nebraska more competitive and more affordable.”
Looking ahead to the 2022 legislative session, Hilgers urged senators to think big about how best to continue to move Nebraska forward with a sense of urgency.
“If this Legislature wants to be as transformative as I believe that it can be, we have to start with an historic first session, but we have to end with a transformative second session,” he said.
Gov. Pete Ricketts, in his address to lawmakers, praised senators for approving nearly $1.7 billion in property tax relief over the next two years. Nearly 18.5 percent of the state’s biennial budget is dedicated to various tax relief measures, he said.
“This is the most, the biggest, the greatest amount of tax relief any legislature has done in a quarter century — and potentially in the history of the state of Nebraska,” Ricketts said.
The governor said the Legislature’s “quick and decisive” action empowered state agencies to respond effectively to the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Throughout the pandemic, we were always able to provide that hospital bed, that ICU bed or that ventilator to anyone who needed it, when they needed it,” he said. “That has allowed us … to have one of the lowest fatality rates from coronavirus of any state in the nation.”
Ricketts said many Nebraskans stepped up to take care of one another, allowing the state to emerge from the pandemic in a strong position.
“Because of the great work of our educators, we have one of the highest rates of kids in classrooms throughout the course of this last school year,” he said. “We had the lowest unemployment rate on average of any state in the nation throughout 2020, and we have the lowest unemployment rate in the country today.”
The Legislature is scheduled to convene in early fall for a special legislative session to complete the 2021 redistricting process. The second session of the 107th Legislature is scheduled to convene Jan. 5, 2022.